Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are introducing competing bills that aim to put a tax on carbon.
The push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions come as both Democrats and Republicans face pressure from their constituents, and in some cases the fossil fuel industry itself, to regulate carbon emissions that lead to climate change.
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) all introduced carbon tax bills on Thursday that each take a shot at cementing the long tossed-around idea of a carbon fee. Those three bills join two other bipartisan measures proposing a carbon tax introduced earlier this year in the House and the Senate.
The influx of legislation is surprising some observers who have long called for action on climate change. They say they wouldn’t have believed a year ago that there would have been such a push.
“I can tell you from what I know is that we are worlds apart from the Congress that I left at the beginning of this year,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida who lost his reelection bid last year.
Curbelo last year was the first Republican to introduce a carbon pricing bill in nearly a decade. He’s since joined Alliance for Market Solutions, a Republican-to-Republican-focused carbon tax coalition.
“During my four years I think we made a lot of progress on changing the culture to make it acceptable to discuss this challenge, to name it for what it is — but even then a lot of Republicans were not anxious to engage,” he said.
“Today, not just rank and file from moderate districts, but leading Republicans, senior Republicans are stepping out on the issue, making it clear that the debate should be over solutions, not over science or anything else of that nature, and for me it’s a sign of real progress.”
Coons’s bill with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Climate Action Rebate Act of 2019, would start greenhouse gas fees at $15 per metric ton of carbon and gradually increase the fee over time.
It estimates the tax would bring in $12 billion in revenue, which would then be distributed in part as a rebate to low income families. A portion also would be used to invest in clean energy. The bill aims to reduce U.S. carbon emissions 55 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
A second bill introduced by Rooney with Lipinski as a co-sponsor, the Stemming Warming and Augmenting Pay Act, would impose a $30 tax per metric ton of carbon. Revenues would be largely paid out to individuals through payroll taxes.
The tax would apply to fossil fuel producers and large industrial emitters and would reduce energy-related carbon pollution by approximately 42 percent by 2030. It would also bar new regulations on power plants as long as they meet the emissions targets set by the bill.
The final bill introduced by Lipinski with Rooney as the co-sponsor, titled the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2019, would spend revenue collected from the tax to cut payroll taxes, with a portion dealt to Social Security beneficiaries. That bill would start taxing carbon at $40 per ton but would raise the rate at a slower pace than the other bills.